Aside from being my Mum’s birthday and my attending the first gig I’d been to in six months (Killswitch Engage. If you saw my twitter around that time, you’d have seen that I rather enjoyed it…) the 5th of May marked quite a significant anniversary for me.
It marked a whole year since I had an alcoholic drink.
Since I was about 21 I’ve not really been much of a drinker anyway, so abstaining from alcohol isn’t a particularly tough challenge for me. However, I don’t think I’ve gone a whole year without it before, not consciously at least. It was only after about 6 months of being “dry” that I sort of became conscious of the fact that I hadn’t drunk in so long, and decided to try and do it for a year. And well, there we go, I’ve done it.
Something that has become abundantly clear to me over my years of nor drinking that much, and over the last year of not drinking at all is that, In general, drinking is not only accepted, but is almost expected of us in the society we live in. And that’s something that troubles me. Being relatively (or as now, completely) alcohol free is not an alien concept for me, but to many people, either cutting down or going without alcohol seem like the most alien concepts imaginable.
I can’t quite remember the exact quote, but Simon Amstell pretty much nailed the entirety of what I’ve been talking about above in his show “Numb”. He said something along the lines of if you’re not a recovering alcoholic, other people seem troubled by the fact that you aren’t drinking and will be almost insistent that you should have a drink - as if there’s no other reason not to drink other than being a recovering alcoholic. And I’m absolutely with him on this one. It’s my choice not to drink at the moment, I have my reasons (health if you really want to know), and that should be enough for anyone, no insistence on my having a drink should be made.
Erm…anyway. I should make it clear at this juncture that I don’t particularly have anything against drinking - I may yet drink alcohol again in the future, but for the time being I choose not to drink it. Other people choose to drink it, and that’s fine, so long as that does no harm to anyone else - something that, alas, it very often does. (which is another discussion entirely, and not something I have the time or the inclination to discuss here.)
So that’s it. I have been a year (and counting) without alcohol. And if your opinion is that that makes me boring or dull or no fun or what have you, then that’s fine. But if you can’t open your mind to question societal norms and accept other people’s life choices, then that’s your problem, not mine. Let’s be un-friends.
A few months ago a certain weekly music magazine were looking for new writers. I was unsure about whether to send anything in but in the end I decided there was nothing to lose and went for it. They were asking for a gig review of 150 words. I reviewed a Converge gig that was back in November of last year sometime. Of course they never got back to me (This can be for one reason and one reason alone - it was only 149 words and they are sticklers for 100% word count accuracy. I mean, what else could it have been because obviously the writing is of exceptionally high quality and the review is flawlessly brilliant…er…) so instead of it just festering on my computer, I have decided to let it go free and release it onto the internet. Fly my pretty…
The problem for bands supporting Converge is just that – they’re supporting Converge, the best hardcore band on the planet. (This is an un-debatable fact by the way, if anyone was thinking of trying.) A Storm Of Light therefore seem pretty flaccid and boring given what’s to come. Touche Amore fortunately are rather better, with an impressively impassioned following down the front, and a fair few head nodders behind. However, it’s still just foreplay before Converge come out and well, totally slay. There’s no grand entrance, they just launch into opener Concubine, which well, totally slays. From then on it’s Converge at their face-melting best, tearing through tracks old and new - reminding everyone that they’ve been at this 20+ years yet continue to be at the top of their game. There’s no dull moments, no lulls, it’s wall-to-wall amazing and they well, totally slay. Did I mention that already?
After the ensuing twitter shitstorm (it wasn’t a shitstorm) that befell after I twatted about BTBAM not being very good, “try hard nonsense”, I said, to be exact, I decided to give ‘Colours’ a listen in an attempt to see whether I could change my mind over this band that so many people splurge so much semen (and its feminine equivalent…eggs? ovum? whatever) over. The main issue I have with this band when listening to them on previous occasions and then seeing them live is that they segue from one section to another with virtually no connective elements. One moment it’s death metal, the next it’s a pirate jig, or a Hammond organ solo, or a cockney knees up, or Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, or a banana. It all just seems like randomness for randomness sake and is a truly annoying and grating thing to have to listen to.
I have now listened to this record in its entirety (A feat that I think deserves some kind of reward personally) and the result is as follows – I tried, but my mind is not changed and I still think this band is balls. Fuck all of you.
I believe this post constitutes an entire month of writing something every day. I’m quite shocked that I managed to force myself through it and see it through this far. There is, however, still one piece that was one of the major ideas I had in the first place that I have not yet written.
I don’t intend to write that particular piece right now, it’s too late and I’m too tired. It might come as soon as tomorrow, but it might take me a week or so to get around to it, but I do intend to write it at some point soon that’s for sure.
I am currently “back home” where I fully intend to relax and rest for us much of the time as possible. Writing may constitute part of this, it may not…let’s see.
We all have them. Those albums in our music collection that we consider to have gone largely unrecognised and unappreciated by both other music lovers and the press.
Of course, we occasionally come across those who share our feelings for the band/album in question, at which point outpourings of mutual “Isn’t this album so great why don’t other people recognise it aren’t they all silly billies aren’t we brilliant though because we love it and secretly actually we’re kinda glad that other people don’t like it because it makes us feel special that we’re part of the select group of people that do.”
Off the top of my head I can think of a number of such records that exist within my collection (on both physical and non-physical formats). I am listening to one now in fact. And you know what, much as I wished other people were attached to this record in the same way I am, I don’t want to say what it is, for the perverse reasons expressed above. I feel somewhat privileged to belong to a select few who have a deep affection for this record. There’s a special attachment there that I feel, ridiculously, would be somehow altered and lessened should I happen to share it with other people.
It’s not every record I feel this way about. Some I will harp on about til the cows come home because they’re so brilliant. But others…others just remain our own personal little escapes that we like to keep to ourselves.
Us city dwellers live in high pressure, high stress, intense, testing and exhausting environments.
The importance of getting away from all of this is really absolutely central to our existence, particularly for those who live surrounded by the intensity of a city. I have not taken a proper break since…well, probably since Christmas. I feel it. I can feel it in my bones; through every fibre of my being. It screams out for me to take it out of this hyper-unnatural environment of the big city and away to the open fields, fresh air and quiet that it innately recognises as the environment for a mammal.
This is why I cannot wait to escape London for a week. Don’t get me wrong, living here is exhilarating and I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world right now, but I am of the firm belief that one needs to escape every few months to prevent the city from sapping every last ounce of energy. London is a place that never really gives one the chance to completely unwind and let oneself fully relax. A small part is always ticking over, always aware of the noisy, smelly and busy surroundings.
Just so long as ones bucolic escape plans don’t result in a Withnalian catastrophe, then such things are good for re-energizing the spirit and “centring” ourselves. Maybe some people don’t need or desire this escape in order to live in this, or any other city. Some do, myself included. In order to live here, I have to get out and take a break from the place lest it wear me down to a fine black dust, to end up on the tissue of some weary tube commuter.